To celebrate Thanksgiving this year, Special Collections highlights Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook by Alice Brock (the Alice of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” song) and the 1965 Thanksgiving that occasioned it. This is not a cookbook for Thanksgiving. It is a book that exists because of Thanksgiving. It is also a commercial, even nostalgic, artifact (produced by a mainstream publisher—Random House) about a countercultural moment already in the past when the book appeared in 1969.
Alice Brock had opened a restaurant—The Back Room—in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1965. That Thanksgiving she hosted a gathering of friends that included Arlo Guthrie, the son of folk singer Woody Guthrie. The day after the festivities, Guthrie and a friend helpfully removed a large load of garbage from Brock’s house. The city dump was closed so the young men threw the trash down a nearby ravine. The owner of the property had the two arrested and criminally charged with littering. Brock bailed them out of jail and Guthrie was inspired to write a song, which became “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” released in 1967.
In the song, Guthrie relates his Stockbridge Thanksgiving, detention, and subsequent conviction. Then the song changes and Guthrie describes how he used his criminal record to secure a rejection from the New York City Draft Board and avoid military service during the Vietnam War. The song, which is 18 and a half minutes long, unexpectedly became an anthem of anti-Vietnam protests and an expression of countercultural rebellion. Since the 1970s it has also become a cultural icon around Thanksgiving. Today, many radio stations around the country play the song on this holiday.
Guthrie’s story/song also caught the attention of film director Arthur Penn, who adapted it into a film, Alice’s Restaurant. It was released in 1969 with leading roles by Guthrie and a small cameo by Brock (Patricia Quinn played Alice Brock in the film).
Brock published Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook on the song and the film’s commercial coattails. It contains image stills from the movie as well as a small, vinyl record tucked into a pouch attached to the back inside cover. The recording doesn’t include “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” but the disk underscores the book’s connection with Guthrie’s famous song with a short introduction by Guthrie and Brock followed by two songs by Guthrie. In “Italian-Type Meatballs” and “My Granma’s Beet Jam,” he puts the words of two of Brock’s recipes to music.
Brock’s cookbook captures her playfulness and openness along with the countercultural ethos of both her Thanksgiving gathering and her cooking. In her introduction, Brock riffs on the chorus of Guthrie’s song (“you can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant”). “There is no one way to get what you want unless it is to remain open,” she writes. “Keep guessing. . . . No one has ever fried an egg without turning on the gas, but maybe this time if you look that egg straight in the eye and say ‘FRY,’ it will.” (p. 3). And no Betty Crocker cookbook had index entries for “Blowing Your Own Horn” and “Doctor, Get the” as well as “Used Chicken.
If you hope to find special recipes for cooking a Thanksgiving feast in Brock’s book, however, you’ll be disappointed. The section on “Turkey” takes up just a part of one page and the only reference to Thanksgiving appears in a chapter on “Stuffings And Forcemeat.” But as Alice Brock wrote in her author’s bio, she “[c]ooked good good food with a smile and other expressions . . . Bought a crummy diner . . . Turned it into a crazy-yummy-cozy restaurant . . . Thru it all Alice is a real live human bean—Still foolin’ around and still cookin’ . . .”
RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break (November 25-26, 2021). We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!
Ninety years ago, Francis O’Neill made the University of Notre Dame the valuable gift of his remarkable personal library, a library known primarily for its collections on Irish music and Irish history.
Though the magazine covers literature, history and politics, it is for the music that O’Neill collected these volumes, as borne out by both his pencil annotations on the pages and his listing of these volumes under ‘Musical History and Literature’ in his inventory of the collection (O’Neill Library Inventory, MSN/MN 0502: Series 2).
The periodical ran, with various name-changes, from 1839 until 1843. When William Elliot Hudson (1796-1853) became editor, his brother, Henry Hudson (1798-1889) contributed a regular section on Irish music. This is the same Henry Hudson, a dentist with a practice on St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, whose manuscripts found their way into various collections including that of Francis O’Neill. We know how O’Neill came by the manuscript from a letter he wrote to Charlotte Milligan Fox in 1911:
When I obtained the MSS. Volume referred to on pages 68 and 249 of “Irish Folk Music” through Nassau Massey, Cork, I was informed that some four or five similar volumes had been purchased for the Boston Library. These latter, it appears, reached Mr. Massey, and were disposed of before the volume I now possess came into his hands.
O’Neill’s letter is published in an article by Fox, “Concerning the William Elliott Hudson Collection of Irish Folk Songs” in which she describes her discovery of the five notebooks in the Boston Public Library, and also argues erroneously that the author is William E. Hudson.
Hudson transcribed the songs and melodies at a time of enthusiasm for collecting and preserving traditional music of Ireland. Edward Bunting’s published collections, beginning with the melodies he transcribed from the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, inspired a number of others to engage in similar work.
While the manuscript notebooks are filled with the songs or melodies, his published sections on Irish music include also lengthy introductions to the songs. The February 1941 issue of The Citizen also includes an essay on the printing of Irish music.
In our present number we again present our readers with three Irish airs. In the mechanical departments of the work, we are but experimenting. The neglect of every matter of art in Ireland has hitherto been so great, that we have had to cope with difficulties, which few, possibly , of our readers, are prepared to appreciate. The metals to be graven, — the tools to be employed,– the inks to be used, are all in a state of imperfection. The result is, and it has been the case for years, that those requiring any musical work of nicety to be executed, go, or send to London for it; and thus, even in Bunting’s last beautiful work, in the bringing out of which so much notationality has been tastefully displayed, the reader will find the last page deformed with the announcement, “London, engraved by H. T. Skarratt, 5, Eyre-street, Hatton-garden.” One hundred and thirteen plates for an irish work, especially national, engraved in London!
The Citizen or Dublin Monthly Magazine XVI, no. III, February 1841. P. 134
Hudson assigned Irish language titles along with English titles to most of his tunes. Examples are “Fuaim na dTonn” / “The Sound of the Waves” and “An Deoruide Tuirseach” / “The Weary Wanderer”.
Hudson’s series of notebooks of music manuscripts is divided across three libraries: one in the National Library of Ireland, five in the Boston Public Library, and one here in Notre Dame’s Special Collections.
Our notebook has been digitized may be viewed online, and digital copies of those at the Boston Public Library are available in the Internet Archive:
While the Irish Studies collection in the Hesburgh Libraries has grown considerably in recent decades, one of the enduring treasures, and the collection most often inquired about, is the O’Neill Collection. This is the personal library of Francis O’Neill, the famous collector of Irish music who was once Chicago’s Chief of Police.
Francis O’Neill (1848-1936) left Ireland in his teens, travelled the world as a sailor, settled in America and after first qualifying as a teacher in Missouri, moved to Chicago where he joined the police force in 1873. By all accounts a larger-than-life figure, he was well-known both as a police officer and as one of the major experts on Irish traditional music.
Sometime in the later 1880s… Francis O’Neill began to realize that there was yet much Irish traditional music to be collected and preserved that had escaped earlier collectors. He recruited James O’Neill to the project of collection and started to visit him regularly … so that the tunes remembered from Francis’ childhood in Cork could be noted down from his dictation in a private manuscript collection… [i]
As months and years passed and word of their enterprise spread others contributed tunes to the collection and James O’Neill began visiting musicians in their homes to note their music.
Nicholas Carolan goes on to describe how O’Neill’s project developed, his publication of O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) and his other books, and of the enduring legacy of these books.
For generations of musicians who play Irish traditional music, O’Neill’s books are perceived as essential. Carolan aptly named his book ‘A Harvest Saved’ as O’Neill collected at a time and place where people had left the communities in which the music had thrived. The 75,000 Irish immigrants in Chicago carried with them the music of many parts of Ireland, and O’Neill was able to tap into the rich repository of their tunes and record them for posterity.
O’Neill was following in the footsteps of important collectors such as Edward Bunting and George Petrie, many of whose books are in O’Neill’s collection and bear pencilled annotations indicating his careful study of the contents.
This book is one of the most important works in the history of Irish music collecting. Edward Bunting began his life-long interest in the collection of Irish harp-music in 1792. He notated the music of performers at the Belfast Harp Festival that year, and this inspired him to continue for many years in his collection and study of Irish harp music.
The O’Neill Collection includes also Bunting’s two later collections, published in 1809 and 1840. O’Neill’s pencilled notes can be seen in the margins of these books.
The O’Neill Collection includes important works from Scotland including Orpheus Caledonius by William Thompson, one of the earliest published collections of Scottish songs. First published in two volumes in 1725, our O’Neill copy is volume I only of the 1733 edition. This copy has pencil annotations either by O’Neill or by an earlier reader. It also includes a subscribers list, which is not included in the facsimile edition published in 1962.
When Chief O’Neill offered his library to the University in 1931, he described it as having a ‘Hiberniana’ collection and a music collection. In each case, his library was exceptional. Our O’Neill Collection includes a valuable selection of books on Irish history and antiquities, and in the music section, a collection of many well-known collections of Irish music, along with lesser-known books of dance music, and books on the music and instruments of Ireland, England and Scotland in particular.
Hoping to bring the O’Neill Collection to enthusiasts who cannot visit the Hesburgh, we selected thirty of the rarest books from the collection for digitization. We plan to share these digital collections in a number of ways — the Internet Archive being one — making it possible to study the books anywhere in the world.
An exhibition which sets the story of the SDP within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examines its artistic as well as literary achievements is currently on display in Special Collections. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by the SDP (though not this volume), is curated by Dennis Doordan (Professor Emeritus School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame), and runs through the summer.
Happy Easter to you and yours from Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Notre Dame.
After being closed April 19 in observance of Good Friday,
Rare Books and Special Collections reopens at 9am
on Monday, April 22, 2019.
The main exhibit this spring is In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru. This exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.
The spotlight exhibits during early April are From Distant Waters: Whaling Manuscripts in Special Collections and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, both curated by George Rugg. The baseball exhibit will end mid-month, with the exhibit Chaste, Choice and Chatty: Irish-American Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century, curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, opening for the second half of the month and continuing through the summer.
Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
Thursday, March 1 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: MA Presentations — “Alessandro Blasetti’s Cinema and the Fantastic: A Closer Look at the Unmarried Woman” by Genevieve Lyons, and “Representations of Self: Dante’s Use of First Person in the Vita Nova” by Katie Sparrow. Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.
The spring exhibit, In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru, officially opens on February 9. The exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.
The spotlight exhibits during February are Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, curated by Rachel Bohlmann, and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg.
The January-February spotlight, Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, highlights a print acquired by Rare Books and Special Collections in 2017.
Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This 1864 steel engraving by James W. Watts was adapted from a drawing, Reading the Proclamation of Emancipation in the Slaves’ Cabin, by New York City artist Henry Walker Herrick. Very few pictorial depictions of the proclamation were made before Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and this is the only contemporary image that offers an interpretation of how it might have been received by the people it was intended to free.
The winter spotlight, Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, continues through February.
In 2015 RBSC acquired a collection of more than 450 examples of baseball-related sheet music, dating from before the Civil War to the late 20th century. On display in this spotlight exhibit is a small sampling of the collection, with items ranging from the early days of baseball to the end of the Tin Pan Alley era. The examples on display in this spotlight exhibit are selected from Special Collections’ Baseball Sheet Music Collection.
This exhibit is curated by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections.
The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, was extended into January and closes on Tuesday the 23rd.
The spring exhibit, In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru, will open in early February — watch for more information on the blog!
Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Thanksgiving Break (November 23-24, 2017). In addition, RBSC will be closed December 5, 11:00am to 2:00pm due to the Hesburgh Libraries Christmas lunch.
The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, continues to be on display through December 15, 2017. Public tours of the exhibit are offered Tuesdays at noon and Wednesdays at 3pm, and are also available by request for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.
The monthly spotlight exhibit for November and December is Building A Colonial Mexican Tavern: Archive of the Pulquería El Tepozán, curated by Erika Hosselkus. This exhibit features a manuscript archive which includes real estate, licensing, and planning documents for the pulquería El Tepozán. It was one of four such establishments built by nobleman don Pedro Romero de Terreros, the Count of Regla, in Mexico City, beginning in the final years of the 1770s.
The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America remains open for one more week.The winter spotlight exhibit, Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, will open in mid-November and highlights the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.
In August 2015, Giles Constable donated a small collection of fragments and charters in memory of his daughter, Olivia Remie Constable (1960-2014), who had been the Robert M. Conway Director of the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame. The gift included a thirteenth-century leaf from a processional, later shown to be at Wilton Abbey, a women’s Benedictine house, until 1860. The parent manuscript was broken by Cleveland biblioclast, Otto F. Ege (1888-1951), who included leaves from it in his portfolio, Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscript. It was Leaf no. 8. Leaves from the processional were disseminated widely through Ege’s portfolios as well as from later dealers, and now are part of many American and Canadian collections. Processionals contain the antiphons and rubrics pertaining to the processions themselves. For example, Palm Sunday and the Visitatio sepulchri are included.
Constable MS 4 contains part of the procession for Palm Sunday. Of great interest, and rarity, is the use of feminine forms in the rubrics (e.g., ‘cantrix’). This shows intentional customization for a female religious community, whereas many other manuscripts often transmit the masculine forms even though they were used by women.
Alison Altstatt, “Re-membering the Wilton Processional,” Notes 72 (2016): 690-732.
David T. Gura, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016), pp. 480-482.
Scott Gwara, Otto Ege’s Manuscripts (Cayce, SC: De Brailes, 2013).
This small exhibit highlights selections from the Hesburgh Libraries’ collections of musical adaptations of Dante’s works. On view are historical examples of compositions relating to Dante’s Divina Commedia and Vita Nuova. While Dante witnessed musical adaptations of his texts composed already in his own lifetime, they hit a high point in the mid-19th century when the author’s popularity surged in both Italian and translation readership.
This spotlight exhibit will be visible from October 3-28 in Rare Books & Special Collections on the ground floor of Hesburgh Library. The exhibit is presented in conjunction with Journeying La Divina Commedia: Desert, Discovery, Song, an interdisciplinary musical project, which will be performed at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame on October 8-9, 2016.
For more information about the exhibit or collections in this area, please contact Tracy Bergstrom, Curator of the Zahm Dante and Early Italian Imprints Collection.